NDN Blog


The diversity of today's Democratic Party is a great strength

Our government was designed to be a contentious, dynamic, messy, ineffecient thing.  A system where people with diverse views could come together, debate, argue and hash out a rough consensus on the best course for the nation.  By designing a system that allocated power in such a diffuse manner, our Founding Fathers respected the rights of an individual, and protected these rights.  To work, our government requires a diversity of views, and requires that those views are not transformed or subsumed into a single national path.  Tolerance, an early and vital American ethic, becomes the paramount ethic for leaders in such a system and for the system itself to succeed. 

To succeed in such a system, a political party must then best understand how to encourage and manage diversity, finding again and again a dynamic and ever changing consensus on the major issues of the day.  To that end Steny Hoyer's election as majority leader seems to be a good thing. 

The new Democratic Congressional Majority is a diverse lot.  There is great generational, regional, racial, ethnic, gender, and ideological diversity in this new group.  There is no "majority way."  There are liberals, blacks, moderates, Hispanics, conservatives, Southerners, Mormons, moderates, Westerners, business people, Midwesterners, farmers, Asians, cityfolk, Northeasterners, ranchers, surburbanites, Catholics, immigrants, vets, countryfolks, the first woman Speaker and even a Muslim.  Sure sounds like 21st century America to me. 

From this diverse Party, The Democratic Congressional Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will have to craft a rough consensus of the major issues of the day.  But this is what our system requires - negotiated and hard fought settlements.  The more diverse Nancy's leadership team is the more likely they will be able to manage this process of finding rough consensus in Congress, something the Republicans were so unable to do.  Wherever you came down on the Murtha/Hoyer battle, it feels to me as if the Hoyer win was somehow the best outcome for a Party right now that has no settled path forward on the big issues of the day, but will have to hash them out, together, in a respectful way, in the days and months ahead.  Having Steny there, who clearly comes from a different part of the Party then Nancy, will make it much more likely that the Democratic rough consensus is more representative, and thus more durable, than perhaps it would have been under a Murtha tenure. 

As America itself grows more racially and ethnically diverse, this capacity to show tolerance, manage diversity and find consensus will become even more essential for political success.  The events of this week show the Democrats seem comfortable with this type of the politics, the Republicans not.  Their new RNC Chairman, a minority himself, is lambasted for his support of immigration reform, and Trent Lott, a leader with a history of racism, is elevated up in his Party.  As we move further into the 21st century, it is increasingly clear that this comfort with diversity - ideological, regional, ethnic, racial, generational and gender - will be one of the Democratic Party's greatest stengths. 

Greenberg on the "meltdown election"

Essential reading: pollster Stan Greenberg released a first cut of his big post-election poll last thursday. Yesterday, he put out the full version. Hat tip also to the Campaign for America's Future, who i think paid for it.  

An Awful Lott

But what a sad statement Lott's return to the leadership makes: With all his history, it appears that the senator from Mississippi is still the best that Republicans seeking renewal of their party's fortunes can come up with.

Back to the Future With Trent Lott, John Nichols at the Nation gives an overview of why everyone should be a little regretful that the GOP decided not to pick the reasonable, moderate Lamar Alexander to be their Whip. 

ThinkingBlue Search and Google Co-op

My cohorts and I at my company have been interested for a while at some of the functionality that Google has been opening up in their API’s and other services. I’ve been specifically looking as to how they could be put to use to help the liberal and progressive online (and mobile) community…

The first experiment is us playing with Google Co-op… http://google.com/coop/cse/overview
This Google service allows third parties to set up highly focused search engines powered by Google searching out specific subject matter, content and specific groups of websites…

So out of building something we could personally use, but also that might be of use to the larger community, we set up ThinkingBlue Search.

This is a custom search engine powered by Google Co-op focused specifically on searching out across the spectrum of politically progressive ideas and discussion.

ThinkingBlue Search is currently covering about 400 web sites, including every major progressive think tank (over 40 of them including NDN and NPI), every major progressive blog that discusses politics and policy (over 200 of them so far), every major official Democratic web site including every single local State party website (about 70-ish of them), every major liberal political journal and magazine in print and online (over 25), most of the major progressive syndicated columnists (right now just over 20 and growing), most of the progressive watchdog groups (also about 20 at the moment) and lastly, it also searches the early progressive political wikis that exist (about 10 or so).

..and we’re adding sites daily.

See what you think. Try it out, and as ThinkingBlue Search is very much a stable alpha at this point (and Google Co-op itself is a beta) but I would love early feedback, which you can leave in the comments here... or email to tchambers AT media50group.com..

McCain: Looking Wobbly

Its interesting to see the beginnings of a McCain backlash take shape. Yesterday he was rebuked by the top general in Iraq, who (for reasons that should be perfectly obvious to anyone paying attention) knows that more troops in Iraq is not an option for a host of good reasons. Today, CAP take a close look at McCains "dangerous vision", otherwise known as the plan to send another hundred thousand more troops. It has the benefit of being politically completely infeasible. And that is about the best which can be said about it. It is too early to say the wheels are coming off. But, frankly, McCain looks weaker this week than the week before last. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will deliver two major speeches today to prominent conservative political groups -- GOPAC and the Federalist Society -- in what is being billed as his assessment of the current state of conservatism and "how he would lead it." For an American public that just recently registered its utter dissatisfaction with the current course in Iraq, McCain's prescription for the future will be extremely unsatisfying. He has repeatedly called for an increase in U.S. troop levels, isolating himself from most national security experts and U.S. generals in Iraq. Yesterday, Gen. John Abizaid, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, rejected McCain’s calls for increased U.S. troop levels, informing him that he “met with every divisional commander, Gen. [George] Casey, the core commander, Gen. [Martin] Dempsey” and asked them if bringing “in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said ‘no.’” Escalation in Iraq would be a disastrous course for our nation's strategic security interests. Moreover, the overstretched American military does not have the manpower to provide more troops in Iraq. "He would just repeat the mistake of Vietnam," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution. "If McCain refuses to acknowledge that some wars can become simply unwinnable, he may be exposing a weakness in his thinking that ultimately deprives him of the presidency."


The Virtual World of Second Life Becomes Real for Politics

This week I gave the strangest talk I have ever given, and it had nothing to do with what I said. It had to do with where I was. I was inside a virtual three-dimensional world, in the online game called Second Life.

The gathered group was made up of Netroots activists from all over the country who were gathering in this virtual setting, on the edge of a grassy hilly, on an island. They each were represented by an avatar, which can look like a person, but can also be made to look like animal-like beings too. There was a billboard with an agenda, and stumps to sit on, and free tee-shirts to wear. But it was all inside an interactive game. The talk was done through typing like in a chat room, with my words coming out line by line and others chiming in over my central narrative.

It this all seems like too much, then brace yourself. It probably will start to get more traction in politics in the coming years. After all, the private sector business world is going ga-ga over Second Life right now. There has been a flurry of mainstream news stories, several prominent ones in the New York Times, the cover of BusinessWeek, and the Reuters newswire has assigned a permanent reporter to cover what is going on in there.

The reason for all the attention is that Second Life now has more than 1.3 members and as much as $400,000 a day in real money changing hands through buying and selling in this virtual world. In fact, any of you can join for free and try it out in no time at all. Just go there and sign up.

And so, like the other media tools that have been pioneered and developed in the private sector, politics will follow into these virtual worlds too. In fact, I think gaming will become a significant area for politics in the next couple years, following in the footsteps of viral video, mobile media, and social networking. But more about that later. For now, go check it out.

Peter Leyden

Will the Wisdom of the Crowds compete with Polling?

There was a very interesting political experiment initiated before the election by a group in the San Francisco bay area to tap what has been labeled “the wisdom of the crowds,” after the bestseller by James Surowiecki.

Well in advance of the election, Predict06 asked the general web community to make educated predictions about who would win any of the US House and Senate seats that truly were in play. It started out tilting towards the Republicans because some conservative bloggers and online groups first began to take part. But as the progressive blogosphere and netroots types learned about it, the predictions evened up. On the eve of the election, it was looking pretty interesting…..

The results? A full 84,501 predictions were made and the predicted results were amazingly close to the actual results. The predicted Senate was 50/50. The actual Senate, 51 Dems to 49 Republicans. The predicted House: 231 Dems to 204 Republicans, with the D’s picking up 28 seats The actual was: 229 to 196, with the D’s taking 30.

You have to wonder whether this experiment could be refined in successive cycles to evolve into a pretty accurate tool that might compete with the current generation of public opinion polling. At the very least, this is a tool that is worth playing around with. Check it out:

Peter Leyden

The immigration battle: much to be proud of, much to do

Of all the stories coming out of the 2006 elections one of the most consequential now appears to be the extraordinary failure of the Republican party to turn immigration into a political weapon against the Democrats.

On every level the right wing anti-immigration campaign was a political failure. Despite millions of dollars spent on the ground and on the air, it failed to dent Democratic candidates. National anti-immigrant leaders like Arizona’s JD Hayworth and Randy Graff lost. The anti-immigration campaigners riled up the electorate about a vexing national problem and then offering no coherent solution. It has caused a tremendous, and potentially historic, backlash with Latinos, the fastest growing part of the American electorate. And, by failing, it has created significant bi-partisan momentum for comprehensive immigration reform, the very legislative initiative they relentlessly attacked.

I am extremely proud of the role NDN and its members played in hanging tough against the 18 month Republican onslaught. When the hardliners began their offensive against the sensible bipartisan McCain-Kennedy bill last year, we all swung into action. NDN was proud to be a leading member of the national comprehensive immigration reform coalition, led by the National Immigration Forum that includes the Catholic Church, several major labor unions, the Chamber of Commerce and many immigrant-rights groups.

NDN, now a 501 c(4) advocacy organization, did what advocacy organizations do. We held events, talked to the media, lobbied members of Congress, wrote blog posts, and sent emails. We launched a big effort to reach out to Spanish language media, including sending out a daily national Spanish-language email cataloguing the work of the anti-immigrant forces. Along with our partners we ran several hard-hitting national Spanish-language media campaigns, ensuring that Latino voters knew who was on their side. All told NDN and the NDN Political Fund spent well over $2 million on this effort over the past 18 months, money I hope all of you will feel was well spent. 

The voters told the story of how this battle played out. After years of trending Republican the national Latino vote swung very heavily towards the Democrats. In 1996 the D/R split for the Latino vote was 76/21. In 2000 it was 64/35, and in 2004 59/40. But in 2006 it was 69/30, a dramatic reversal. It is clear that immigration debate crossed a line. It was seen not as anti-immigrant but anti-Hispanic. The result was a degraded Republican brand, and record turnout in the Hispanic community. Election exit polls showed a huge jump in voting, with Hispanics making up around eight percent of the total vote, a record midterm turnout tide that even matched voting levels in the 2004 Presidential election.

The Republicans are now facing a moment where their hope of building a new 21st century majority is in peril. For years Bush and Rove understood that Latinos were essential to their future.  White House pollster Matthew Dowd repeatedly said prior to the 2004 elections that unless the GOP received 40% of the national Latino vote they could not win national elections. They got this magic 40% in 2004. But going into 2008 they now start at least 10 points down from their strategic goal.

But Democrats looking ahead should not take this new Latino opportunity for granted.  This vote has swung a great deal in recent years and could swing again. The White House and the RNC will be doing everything they can – from giving an Oval Office address on immigration as Bush did earlier this year to appointing a bilingual Cuban immigrant to be the leader of their Party – to reverse this dramatic decline. 

For Democrats, the single most important thing they can do to lock in this advantage is to not fumble the opportunity to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.  The lesson of 2006 should be that the Party that failed to deliver for this community paid dearly at the polls. 

After the hopes of Latinos have been raised this year, Democrats simply must answer and work together with the President and Senator John McCain to do what they were given control of Congress to do – tackle the tough problems of the day.  Passing comprehensive immigration reform will be one of those things that must get done in 2007. We will be working hard with leaders of both parties to get it done.  

This debate over immigration could come to be seen as one of the truly transformational issues coming out of this election. Everyone involved in the campaign worked hard to win this vital battle. I want to thank all of them, and everyone in the wider NDN community, for helping to make this happen. And I hope you will continue to support our work on this crucial issue in the future. 


Read more about NDN's ongoing role in the immigration debate:

"Latinos throw more support at Democrats"
"The nation's divide reemerges"
"Hispanic Is Expected to Be the Next Political Face of the G.O.P."
"Vote Is a Blow to Republican Pursuit of Hispanics"
NPR: Immigration Logjam May Break with New Congress
NPR: Both Parties See Upside to Immigration Issue

Webb on Globalization

Jim Webb, it seems, is not content being a decent man, a fine campaigner, a hero to the Democratic party and a refreshingly authoritative voice on security issues. Today he moves forward on the part of his campaign that discussed economic fairness with an impressive and articulate article in the Wall St Journal. I understood from others, and from his background as an author, that Webb could write. Nonetheless its impressive to see a sitting politician put out something that looks like its been written by a talented human being, rather than (at best) a cautious team of trained operatives or (at worst) a less than infinite number of monkeys.


Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest. The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

I don't agree with all that he says. The picture of american inequality isn't as bleak as he claims. The chances of "political unrest" are far fetched. His paragraph on genetics strikes an odd, unlikely tone. He is light (read: empty) on ideas to fix the problems he cites. And the populist tone of his campaign gives the hint that the suggestions to which he warms would not be those that NDN would endorse. Nonetheless the thrust of his argument is sound, and his last line - that "government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization." - is welcome for highlighting the central role that globalization must play in any sensible progressive politics of the future. Bottom Line: can you imagine George Allen saying anything half this sharp? Frankly, The more i see of Senator Webb, the more i like. I'm off to find 7000 Virginians to thank.

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